2017 Presenters

Announcing the 2017 Presenters!

Kristine D. Adams lives in rural Indiana, near enough to the Ohio River to hear barge traffic. She thrives with experimentation in new forms of writing, art constructions, photography, gardening and more. She enjoys writing fiction, essays, poetry and nonfiction. An alumnus of Midwest Writers Conference held by Ball State University and many other regional writing events, Adams is deep into her memoir and facilitates lively workshops for those just starting this journey.

Adams studied journalism and design before changing her academic focus to psychology and behavior analysis. She wrote and edited newsletters for commercial and nonprofit agencies. Freelance work includes BETA reading/editing of manuscripts, copywriting, and her literary palette features articles for magazines.

Adams is a member of the National Association of Memoir Writers, Indiana Writers Center, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Women Who Write, and River Writers Critique Group etc. See more at kdadams.com.

Beth Amos is a USA TODAY bestselling author who is also published under the pseudonyms of Annelise Ryan and Allyson K. Abbott. Beth has enjoyed a varied writing career including a stint as a book reviewer and several years of nonfiction freelancing. Now she writes only fiction, and in stark contrast to her "day job" as an ER nurse, where she gets to save lives, the one common factor in her fiction, no matter what name it's written under, is that someone always dies.

As Annelise Ryan she writes a mystery series featuring nurse-turned-coroner, Mattie Winston. As Allyson K. Abbott she writes a mystery series featuring bar owner, Mack Dalton, who uses her neurological disorder, synesthesia, to help solve crimes. As Beth Amos she wrote five thrillers: Cold White Fury, Eyes of Night, Second Sight, Nick of Time, and Face of Death.

Beth has her pseudonyms in part because she figures her current ER patients might not be comfortable knowing she spends her spare time thinking up devious and clever ways to kill people. Find more at bethamos.com.


Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in great romance novels and novellas.

Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view. Her contemporary inspirational novels form The Orchard Hill Romances. She has written several historical romances, including The Baron’s Blunder which is a prequel to her Regency romantic suspense novels called the Rose Hill Romances. She has also self-published a collection of short stories and flash fiction entitled Little Bits O’ Love

You can learn more by following her twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.

Brea Behn is very passionate about reading and writing in all genres. She started writing at age fifteen, when she wrote a memoir for her twin brother. Currently, she writes dystopian, children’s fiction, nonfiction, and is building her career as an author and public speaker. Brea speaks on topics ranging from social medial, being a published author, and on more personal topics such as grieving as a teen and living with PTSD.

When Brea is not writing, she is reading, usually several books at the same time. She also volunteers at her local humane society, gardens, and loves movies. Brea lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their two children. Find more at breasbooks.com.


Andrea Boeshaar has been married for nearly 40 years. She and her husband Daniel have 3 wonderful sons, 1 beautiful daughter-in-law, and 5 precious grandchildren.

Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994 when her first novel was released by Heartsong Presents (Barbour Publishing). Her latest historical novel, A Thousand Shall Fall, releases in late November and a contemporary novella collection, Seasons of Love, releases just before Christmas.

Having a heart for other writers, Andrea co-founded American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is also a member of Christian Authors Network (CAN). In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian life coaching from Professional Christian Coaching and Counseling Academy (PCCA). See andreaboeshaar.com for more.

Kristen Bratonja graduated with honors from Lawrence University with a B.A. in English and minors in creative writing and philosophy. She has years of editing and writing experience, and is an editor and the head of marketing at Orange Hat Publishing. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and playing with her puppy, Cooper.

Wayne Breitbarth, once a skeptic and now an outspoken proponent of LinkedIn, is passionate about helping professionals learn how to combine their previous experience and relationships with this innovative tool. His critically acclaimed book, The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search has helped tens of thousands access the full power of LinkedIn.

In addition to his consulting work, Wayne is a dynamic speaker. His practical yet entertaining presentations have inspired audiences both locally and nationally. His audiences have included Inc. Magazine, the American Marketing Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Wayne is a Certified Public Accountant and received a BBA from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an MBA from Marquette University. He is the CEO of Power Formula LLC and resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Jerome F. Buting is a shareholder in the Brookfield, Wisconsin, law firm of Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C. He received his undergraduate degree in forensic studies from Indiana University and his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of Illusion of Justice: Inside Making a Murderer and America's Broken System in which he interweaves his account of the Steven Avery trial at the heart of Making a Murderer with other high profile cases from his criminal defense career.

He was board director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, past president of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and chair of the Wisconsin State Bar Criminal Law Section. He lectures worldwide and is frequently sought for his legal expertise. He is also the recipient of the Fierce Advocate Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the James Joyce Award from University College Dublin, and the Trinity College Dublin Praeses Elit Award. Find more at buting.com.

***Keynote Speaker***

Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. He is the author of the internationally-best selling novel Shotgun Lovesongs, a collection of short stories entitled, Beneath the Bonfire, and The Hearts of Men which has already been longlisted for two of France's top literary awards. He is a multi-award winner and his work has been translated into 13 languages.  Along the way, he has worked as: a Burger King maintenance man, a tutor, a telemarketer, a hot-dog vendor, an innkeeper (twice), an office manager, a coffee roaster, a liquor store clerk, and an author escort. His itinerant work includes: potato harvester, grape picker, and Christmas tree axe-man. His short stories, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in: Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review Online, The Lumberyard, The Christian Science Monitor, Narrative, Sixth Finch, and several other publications.

He lives on sixteen acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married and has two children. Find more at nickolasbutler.com.


Louis V. Clark III, born and raised on the Oneida Reservation of Wisconsin, turned to a unique blend of poetry and story telling to continue the "oral tradition" of his people. In 2011 the Sequoyah National Research Center along with the University of Arkansas published a collection of his poetry titled "Two Shoes." The chapbook received recognition from the Oneida Arts Board along with the Wisconsin Arts Board. His recent work, How to be an Indian in the 21st Century, was just released by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. He and his wife, traditionally looking ahead seven generations, have raised six children who have all earned their college degrees.

Eric J. Egan is a stand-up comic, improv performer and board member of the Time Community Theater who can be seen all around the Fox Valley. He performs at the Backlot Comedy House in the improv shows and hosts their open mics Fridays at 10:30 PM. The first Tuesday of every month he presents Wisconsin's official comedy news show, The Wisco Show, at the Copperstill Bourbon Bar.  Most importantly, Eric J. Egan is a proud cat dad of two who loves when people read bios about him.

John Egan is a comedian based out of Green Bay, WI. He doesn't know why. With an improv background and a failed work place career, John now tours around the country doing stand-up. He has been at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, Cleveland Comedy Festival, and Laughfest and opened for comedy greats like TJ Miller and Kyle Kinane. He also headlines the Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton. John is a regular in the Wisconsin comedy scene and a regular in bars.

Mike Eserkaln owns and performs at ComedyCity. He has 25 years of experience with improvisational comedy. He has done thousands of shows nationwide, including a month-long tour in Iraq with Armed Forces Entertainment.

Mike has written and produced 4 full-length plays, 1 full-length musical, 1 children's musical and countless short “10-minute” plays. He’s been produced in Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Santa Fe, as well as British Columbia, Canada, and Australia. His first novel, Cards with the Devil, was published in February 2016. His next, The Continuing Adventures of Byron & Bing, should be out in 2017.

He has a daughter named Sydney and a cat named Mr. Pitters. Find more at eserkaln.com.

In 2012, Johanna Garton and her husband Ernie made one really big decision: to move their family - including their adopted son Will and daughter Eden - halfway around the world to China, their children’s birth-country. Garton’s first book, Awakening East, is an authentic, personal look at their year spent overseas.

Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Garton first caught the travel bug in college and had always wanted to live abroad with her future family. After studying broadcast journalism and French at Syracuse University in the early 1990s, Garton taught English for 18 months in Taiwan where she learned to speak Chinese (Mandarin) and traveled broadly across Southeast Asia.

Garton has since earned a law degree and worked diligently in nonprofit management. Today, she has her own consulting firm, Missionworks Consulting. Find more at johannagarton.com

Karla Huston has been named Poet Laureate of Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. She earned her B.S. and her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Huston has published poetry, reviews and interviews in many state and national journals. Her poem “Theory of Lipstick” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and appeared in The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses (2012). Her book A Theory of Lipstick earned an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. She has published 8 chapbooks of poetry, most recently Grief Bone.

She is on the board of The Mill: A Place for Writers, and serves on the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the Fox Cities Book Festival authors’ committee. Currently she teaches poetry writing workshops at The Mill. Find more at karlahuston.com.

Susan Karsten lives in a small Wisconsin town, is the wife of a real estate broker, and mother of three. Her hobbies include fitness, quilting, scrapbooking, reading, and eBay.

Her love for writing developed while in college where she earned a BS degree in Home Economics (Apparel Design & Manufacturing), with a minor in Speech.

With child-rearing days at an end, Susan now invests time in fiction writing. With three Regency historical romances and a humorous middle-grade fiction book complete, she is in the process of writing another book.  Her personal blog can be found at Graciouswoman.wordpress.com, and she is a member of ACFW.

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books, collects dragons, and writes inspiring fiction. She also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. Lisa is a member of Women Fiction Writers Association, Chicago Writer’s Association, and vice president/instructor for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

Rex Owens published his first historical novel, Murphy’s Troubles, in November 2013 and his second novel, Out of Darkness, in June 2015 by CK Books Publishing. His fiction explores motives in making life changing decisions, and searches for common themes in our journey to create ourselves. In addition to writing fiction, Rex writes a weekly blog at www.rexowens.us, and is the host of Conversations with Wisconsin Artists on 103.5 FM broadcast on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 9:30 am. The radio program is streamed live at: www.sunprairiemediacenter.com.  E-mail him at rexowens00@gmail.com.

KW Penndorf is the author of the fantasy book Freya and The Dragon Egg, the first in a series for middle school readers.  Penndorf, who always considered storytime her favorite “subject” in school, found herself surrounded by stories when she interned at CBS during her senior year of high school.  In college, she spent a semester abroad and moved to Germany after graduation.

At 29, she moved back to the States, bringing home with her the greatest story and souvenir ever--her husband.  The couple now lives in central Wisconsin.

On a train ride into NYC, a vision came to KW’s sleepy commuter mind: a girl finding a dragon egg in the middle of a Viking graveyard. Presto! The premise for her debut novel was born—a story which KW hopes will change a child’s view on books forever. Find more at kwpenndorf.com.

Jill Swenson, Ph.D., is President, CEO, and Executive Book Development Editor at Swenson Book Development LLC. Swenson Book Development LLC is a boutique agency which represents a broad range of authors writing memoir, narrative nonfiction, children’s picture books, middle-grade fiction, art/photography, poetry, and YA. 

With a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago and 30 years of teaching, editing, and coaching writers, Jill is an author’s advocate. First and foremost, she loves books. She moved to
Appleton, WI, in 2015 with her adopted dog Daisy. They enjoy walking through the sidewalk neighborhoods visiting Little Free Libraries.


Mary T. Wagner is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who changed careers at forty when she went to law school and became a criminal prosecutor. However, she never could step away from the written word entirely, and inevitably the joy of writing drew her back to the keyboard.

Her essay collections--Running with Stilettos, Heck on Heels, Fabulous in Flats and When the Shoe Fits--have garnered numerous national and regional awards. Last year she self-published Finnigan the Circus Cat, the first in a series of children’s chapter books featuring a rescue kitten in a small town circus museum. Since its publication in June, 2016, the book has picked up a strong review from Publishers Weekly and scored some major press in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Sheboygan Press. Wagner is also a team blogger for Growing Bolder.

A Chicago native, this mother of four and new grandmother now lives in Sheboygan where she draws much inspiration for writing from frequent trips to the Lake Michigan shoreline. Find more at marytwagner.com.

Chris Walker is a freelance writer from the Madison, Wisconsin area. He writes primarily about politics, current events, and millennial culture. He has more than a decade of experience writing for both print and online formats. He has written: blog posts, content, news articles, opinion and editorial, and advertising/copy. He even wrote a speech for when he ordained a wedding for a friend!

Chris holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a major in Political Science and minor in Journalism and Mass Communication. He considers Milwaukee his second home and misses tall buildings.

Chris spends his spare time with family, going to various events around Madison that seem interesting. He also pretends he can play the guitar. Find more at thatchriswalker.weebly.com.

Barry Wightman was born in St. Louis and now lives in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. He earned an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. He is a talented voiceover professional and a Wisconsin Broadcasters Association award-winning essayist, whose work has been heard on WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. He’s also a reviewer and review editor for the Washington Independent Review of Books. His music and book reviews have also appeared in various publications in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Washington D.C. He is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. A rock-and-roller at heart, he also plays in a band. He is married with three grown children.


Greg Willett’s first gig was on Bozo’s Big Top, followed by his breakout performance on Romper Room. Now 50 YEARS LATER, he’s working all over the Midwest. Opening for Greg Morton, Todd Yahn, Jimmy J J Walker, Paul Hooper, Carlos Mencia, and Dave Coulier, to name just a few. He was recently voted Mother’s Choice Winner at both the Las Vegas World Series of Comedy and Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids (his mother’s choice for winner).

His high-energy comedy is odd, quirky and intellectually twisted. His perspective on daily events and the myriad of his life experiences make you wonder if he is “not quite right.” There’s something funny about that boy…in both senses of the word.  Audiences are sure to leave with a smile on their faces…come see for yourself. Find more at Gregwillettcomedy.com.

Jeremy Wilson has served with the Oshkosh Police Department since 2005 and is currently assigned to the Investigative Services Bureau where he works as a Detective. Since joining the Oshkosh Police Department, Jeremy has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, undercover officer, and as a forensic phone analyst. In addition to his role as a detective, Jeremy also serves his country in the Wisconsin Air National Guard and has been a member of the armed forces for over 19 years.


Pat Zietlow Miller started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Then, she joined an insurance company and edited its newsletter and magazine. Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night.

Pat has five traditionally published books available and five more under contract. Sophie’s Squash won the Golden Kite, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor. Wherever You Go won a Crystal Kite, and The Quickest Kid in Clarksville was a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Pat has one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters, and two pampered cats. Pat lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Find more at patzietlowmiller.com.